Stilted conversations. Empty niceties. Forced joy. That overwhelming sense that it might have been better to just stay at home in sweats. It’s that horrifying feeling you get being at a bad wedding with people you barely know. And, as it turns out, it’s also the experience of watching “Table 19 ,” a movie about being at a bad wedding at a table with people you barely know.
While that unpleasant sensation might be tolerable (and even kind of clever) for a first act set up, in the awfully generic “Table 19,” it never fades and even gets worse as the labored wackiness gives way to trite sentimentality.
The premise is to spend the course of a wedding reception with the people at the random table, or as they later explain, the pity invite people who should have RSVP’d “no.” There’s the unhappy married couple who sort of know the bride’s father (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), the old undervalued nanny (June Squibb), the estranged family member who’s had some trouble with the law (Stephen Merchant), the awkward teenager who’s hoping to meet a girl (Tony Revolori), and, Eloise (Anna Kendrick), who gave up her maid of honor duties when the bride’s brother, Teddy (Wyatt Russell), dumped her by text a few months prior to the wedding.
How fun it might have been if these misfits had a modicum of comedic chemistry with one another, or actually seemed like real humans. Instead, they’re all half-baked “types” as though they’d all just been tasked with executing a lame audience-suggested improv exercise right before the cameras started rolling. You know you’re in trouble when there are basically two running gags, one about Kudrow’s character being in the same outfit as the waiters at the wedding, and the other being that Merchant’s character, in an attempt to hide his convict status, can only manage to say “I’m a successful businessman.” Both sour with repetition.
It’s all incredibly strained. The script infuriatingly withholds key character information. Threads are left pointlessly dangling (like the mysterious, handsome man who shows up to give Kendrick’s character cryptic life advice, dance with her and then disappears). There’s an elaborate “Mean Girls”-esque ecosystem of wedding guests charted out at the beginning (“eligible singles,” ”iffy singles,” etc.) that goes nowhere. And then things really take a turn for the worse when the movie starts throwing everyone’s terribly oversimplified Big Life Problems at the plot expecting the audience to care.
Kendrick manages to skirt by somewhat on charisma and her ability to make even the most unnatural scripts work for her, but there’s only so much she can do, especially when she barely has anyone to play against in Teddy. Robinson is essentially sleepwalking and Kudrow somehow barely even registers.
The only real comedic highlight is compliments of Andy Daly, a guest at another table, who has about three minutes of screen time.
That a low concept rom-com didn’t quite work is no great offense, but more of a headscratcher when so many talented people are involved. The story itself came from Mark and Jay Duplass, who I can only hope merely sold the idea and weren’t in fact involved in its execution. Perhaps it rests with the director, Jeffrey Blitz, Oscar-nominated for the documentary “Spellbound,” who has successfully directed television comedies, including “The Office.”
The crucial problem with “Table 19” is that you never fall for the misfits, or fall for them falling for each other. They remain, even after a brisk 87 minutes, those annoying strangers who you can’t wait to never see again.
“Table 19,” a Fox Searchlight Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “thematic elements, sexual content, drug use, language and some brief nudity.” Running time: 87 minutes. One half star out of four.